A View from the Pew: 7 Reasons I’m Thankful for My Church

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Though retailers would rather this time of year be known as “Christmas Shopping Season,” the American holiday of Thanksgiving is worth our time and energy as its own distinct observance.

Churches engage with this holiday in a number of ways, but at my church, we sit down together during the third week of the month as a family of faith, emulating what we will do with our blood relatives on Thanksgiving Day.

Our church’s Thanksgiving luncheon kick-starts my personal Thanksgiving celebration with a delicious meal and a chance to reflect on why I’m thankful for my church. Here are the top seven reasons I came up with over a plate of turkey, dressing, and cranberry sauce:

1. Support during crisis. For all the accusations of hypocrisy and self-righteous judgmentalism thrown at the church, it’s widely acknowledged that churches do a great job of taking care of their members during crises. My church is no exception.

Two years ago when my father-in-law suffered a car accident and lingered for 28 days in a hospital two hours away from our home, our church stepped in and helped us with meals, childcare, and emotional and spiritual support. And when our pastor and members of our church drove more than two hours to be at the visitation and funeral, we felt loved in a way that eased our grief and strengthened our bond as a family of faith.

2. Harmony despite differences. No one would suggest that civil discourse in this country is dead, but that just makes me so much more aware of the way my church handles its differences. Yes, we exemplify the old Baptist cliché that where two or three are gathered there are four or five opinions, but we are able to extend the embrace of fellowship with each other even though we are not in lockstep on every Biblical interpretation or social or political issue.

My relationship with my church family goes much deeper than having to feel like I’m right and everyone must come around to my way of thinking. I don’t love my church family in spite of our differences, I love them because of our differences.

3. Acceptance and love for my children. As a parent, nothing swells your heart with pride more than seeing others appreciate and encourage your children. From the time my now 14-year-old son was two, our church as loved my three boys as their own, giving them opportunities to grow and serve and begin their faith journeys as followers of Christ.

It may take a village to raise a child, but my church is much better at it than most. Even when my children need a dose of corrective discipline, there is love in every word.

4. Opportunities to serve. Not that I need to go looking for more things to do, but my church gives me ways to invest my time in making a meaningful and eternal difference in people’s lives. There are countless ways I could get involved in the community, but my church gives me those opportunities plus ways to reach out to the world beyond.

Without my church’s frequent and repeated calls to action, I would be more self-centered and without purpose. Serving brings me hope and lets me see God at work in and through me.

5. Opportunities to give. If I kept all of my money and thought only about spending it on myself, I’d be a pretty miserable person. By giving away some of my money to support the operations of our church as well as its ministries and missions partners, I keep greed and gratuitous consumption at bay.

I am much less likely to set my priorities on temporary and pointless pursuits if I am able to let go of my money and let it be used for life-changing work. My church helps me channel my resources to have the most impact.

6. Focus on worship. It’s true that a person can worship God at any time and in any place, but I’m grateful that my church and its ministers put thought and prayer each week into planning a meaningful encounter with God. When I stop and think about the ways my church blesses me, giving me a time and space to focus on worshiping God is invaluable in helping me maintain a balanced perspective on myself and the world around me.

7. Meaningful relationships. I have scores of acquaintances and many more “friends” on social media than I can keep track of. But the people who can look me in the eye and know when I am tired or frustrated or suffering, are in my church family. A hug or a handshake takes on a different meaning when it comes from someone you serve and worship with, and I know these relationships can’t be replicated anywhere else.

So the next meal I sit down to with turkey, dressing, and cranberry sauce will include an extra few minutes of thankfulness for my church. I encourage you to do the same. Happy Thanksgiving!

Lance Wallace_for_webLance Wallace is a Baptist layperson who does media relations for the Georgia Institute of Technology. He previously served as Director of Communications with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Lance blogs at newsouthessays.com.

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